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PlayTime is the first major thematic exhibition celebrating the role of play in contemporary art and culture. Forty works by 20 leading contemporary artists—including large-scale installations, sculpture, photographs, video and tactile interactives—examine how play catalyzes creative expression, enchants the ordinary, and helps us understand ourselves in new ways.

Features three “tactile interactive” works, including a piece by Turner Prize Winner Martin Creed and One Minute Sculptures by internationally renowned artist Erwin Wurm.

Leading contemporary artists such as Nick Cave, Haim Steinbach, and Mark Bradford are featured alongside the New England debut of several emerging contemporary artists.

The exhibition has a broad emotional range and is part of PEM’s Present Tense Initiative, which seeks to be reflexive and responsive to the pressing issues of our contemporary reality.


Gwen Smith, from the series The Enigma of Yoda, 2002–18, sixteen inkjet printed photographs. Courtesy of the artist.


Launched in fall 2017, the PlayTime digital platform——jump starts a conversation about the exhibition’s themes, exploring the shifting role of play in the arts and culture with contributions by celebrated writers, thinkers, game wrights, poets, and artists. Check in early and often to play along—discover new writing on games and society, hear the artists talk about what play means to them, see the museum’s curators in action, and learn how deeply and broadly play has permeated our culture. Highlights include:


Ongoing series called Dispatches from the Field follows PEM staff on the road, to see the places and meet the players who make up the state of play today.

Videos on include interviews with artists and thought leaders, as well as creative responses from artists and contributors to the PlayTime manifesto.

Virginia Heffernan on the seductive qualities of pinball in the digital age.

Game designer Eric Zimmerman on cheating in games.

Writer Lizzie Stark on live action role play (LARP).

Writer and game designer Kat Brewster on play as a product of boredom.

Journalist Charlie Hall on games designed for the CIA.

Artist Claire Hentschker on her investigation of the video game Grand Theft Auto.

Rising star of crosswords David Steinberg with a custom game-inspired PlayTime puzzle.